How to “silence proof” your group
Imagine you’re with your Connect Group enjoying small talk along with a fun activity or a tasty spread of morsels. As the leader, you begin to move into intentional discussion of Scripture, this week’s message, or an important life topic. Then, the dreaded happens. You ask a question only to be met by your mortal enemy: extended silence.
First of all, a little silence is okay. You may just need to wait it out or ask a follow-up question. However, many of you have experienced a different type of silence, the kind that leads your group to either avoid these types of discussions or stop meeting at all. You’re not alone! I’ve been there, I still go there, and basically all Connect Group leaders have at some point been slayed by silence! From these experiences, I bring you the five actionable tips below. Go destroy some silence!
Want to know.
As the leader of the discussion, you need to want to know the answers to the questions you’re asking. This means you probably need to want to know the people you’re asking, too. If you don’t really want to know how my day was, then ask me if I’m a dog or a cat person (definitely dog). As we get to know each other, hopefully you’ll want to know even more. But start with what you want to know now. Otherwise, your apparent disinterest in my answer will make me feel like you’re disinterested in me. As a result, I won’t want to participate in the discussion.
If you build the discussion, people will talk. Start with a foundation of questions that builds from inviting people to share laughs, to opinions, and and eventually experiences. Laughs let us connect and usually create vulnerability. People who share opinions offer a glimpse of their passions, fears, and beliefs. Listen carefully when people share experiences, and you’ll hear not only what happened, but also how what happened made them feel. These icebreaking questions aren’t just about calming nerves. When you ask the right questions and listen, these questions become the building blocks to the rest of your discussion.
Debates are not bad. In fact, they help us arrive at difficult truths. However, chances are your Connect Group is not the place for a debate. To debate and to discuss have different end goals. Debaters are looking to prove something. Discussers are trying to discover something. I just discovered “discussers” is actually a real word, but I wouldn’t debate you on it. Unless we were both in the Grammar Debaters Connect Group.
Ask open-ended questions.
Nothing kills a discussion like a quiet, “Yes,” or, “No.” If you must ask a yes-or-no question, then follow it up with a why-or-how question. Do you like cats? No. Why? Did Cody’s message really impact you? Yes. How?
Be vulnerable and safe.
Who do you tell the most personal information to? Probably your doctor and someone you love. Basically, to people who are either safe like your doctor, or people who are also vulnerable with you, like the people you love. Your Connect Group should be a place where people know they can share without getting talked about. But, they won’t even try if you don’t first model openness as a leader. To create safety, agree on a ground rule to protect the vulnerable information shared. Something like, “Unless someone’s safety is concerned, what we say here, stays here.